The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
|New program for students focuses on tobacco, obesity|
Staff Photo by Stacey Hairston:
State Sen. Bill Stanley, far left, and Superintendent Mark Church, far right, visited BFMS’s eighth-grade health classes Thursday to observe the “Too Good for Drugs” program.
Monday, October 14, 2013
By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer
Piedmont Community Services (PCS) is partnering with Franklin County schools to help put a stop to underage tobacco use and childhood obesity.
State Sen. Bill Stanley paid a visit to Benjamin Franklin Middle School Thursday to observe prevention specialists from PCS as they presented the "Too Good for Drugs" (TGFD) program to county eighth-graders during their health classes.
"Piedmont Community Services has been offering substance abuse prevention programs in the schools for 24 years," said Regina Clark, coordinator of the FRESH Coalition and CHILL Club. "TGFD has been offered for 10 of those years."
The program, which is funded through the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, lasts 10 to 12 weeks and is being presented to students in the fourth, sixth, eighth and ninth grades.
"TGFD covers education about the harmful effects of various substances, but it also covers effective communication, refusal skills, goal setting and making healthy choices," said Clark. "The program is designed to benefit everyone in the school by providing needed education in social and emotional competencies, and by reducing risk factors and building protective factors that affect students in these age groups."
"We are in the business of saving lives," said Richard Foster, public affairs coordinator for VFHY. "The program started in 2001 when the high school smoking rate in Virginia was 28.6 percent. As of 2011, the smoking rate is down to 13 percent. This is attributed to the hard work that has been put in over the past decade."
Foster said the middle school smoking rate in Virginia is now 3 percent, down from 10.6 percent when the program was originally implemented.
"The middle school age is a critical time to begin teaching kids," said Foster. "This is the time when the experimentation begins for children. We work with schools and communities to teach healthy life choices so kids will grow up to be successful adults."
TGFD in Franklin County is also focusing on childhood obesity.
"Smoking is the number one leading cause of preventable death in the United States," said Foster. "Obesity is right behind it."
Foster said that one in three children in the U.S. are obese.
"This is a critical health issue," said Foster. "We are working very hard to turn these numbers around and change habits. We want to teach people to eat healthier, exercise more and to make those important lifestyle changes."
The tobacco prevention programs are being funded by a $180,000 grant to Piedmont Community Services, Foster said.
"The program is not funded by taxpayer money," said Foster. "It was established in 1999 by the General Assembly, and the childhood obesity coalition in Franklin is funded via a $20,000 grant to STEP."
TGFD has served 1,650 children between the ages of 9 and 15 in Franklin County.
The program is also affiliated with the Franklin County Youth Garden program and hosts Family Fun and Fitness Day in October.